After our recent interview with David Berdish at Ford, we continued our research with Carrie Majeske, Manager, Product Sustainability at Ford to find out how the company is working with sustainable materials and why. Our conversation left us feeling Ford does a little more than just talk “green”.
NZ: Carrie, when people think of the word “green” and sustainable, they have different definitions of these words. What are yours and Ford’s?
CM: The broader definition would be recycled content, renewable, grown, light weighting, reducing allergens and VOC, reducing scare resources, free of conflict minerals. The reason is because drivers experience energy volatility, scarcity of petroleum. That’s why developing alternative energy solutions help us build a better future. Plus, it’s good business! Mostly, by using renewable materials, we reduce weight in cars, which helps achieve fuel economy and lower fuel consumption. Recycling maintains a cost advantage, which is extremely important for a business.
So far, we know the end of life vehicles, and cars and trucks are now 85% recyclable by weight. While most of it is metal, 95% of cars and trucks go through the dismantling process and don’t end up in landfills. The trick now is to see how we can use waste fields from other industries for cars. For instance, nylon pellets make great filling, which are perfect for seats, as well as high thermal plastics.
Our main goal is to lower weight and focus on efficient powertrains. Ford’s Power of Choice means all cars weigh less and less, with alternative energy systems.
NZ: Let’s talk about in-vehicle air quality. This is something we rarely hear carmakers mention. Why is Ford looking into this?
CM: It’s very important and we go through third party certifications to measure Volatile Organics Compounds, VOC. We learned a lot from our success and have integrated into Ford’s own building specifications. By focusing on VOC, the famous, or infamous new car smell is gone, as well as the fogging of glasses, and off-gassing. We can now reach for better comfort in the driving cabin. By using high particle filters, we lower allergy components making their way in. The Fusion already has this system and new materials are coming into all vehicle, uniformly.
NZ: When I think of sustainable materials, I think of good for the environment but also light inside the vehicle.
CM: We do a lot at Ford and I’m always surprised to see the out of the box thinking. For instance, many gaskets are now made from recycled tires. Soy oils play a big role with seats and head rests. Partially recycled resin and coconut oils, cellulose under the foam are all part of our daily manufacturing process. There is serious work that is happening under the hood, which is hidden from the casual eye.
NZ: How much of Ford’s new vehicle interior is recycled and recyclable?
CM: Almost all of it is recycled. Some of the fabrics are 100% recycled, while others are up to 100%. Nylon is 100% recycled, for instance. Virtually, every component can be made from some level of recycled content, except class A surface, a set of high efficiency and quality of surfaces. Mostly, everything is underneath. Take sound insulation, which is used with the help of post-industrial textile products.
NZ: Can you tell us about human rights violation and how serious Ford sees this?
CM: Ford implemented an instrumental code of working, 15-20 years ago. See our David Berdish story here (http://carnewscafe.com/?p=4534). Today many NGOs use that work code industry. Our human rights audits are cascaded down to suppliers, asking them to get on board if they want to be long term suppliers. In fact our UAW partners are proud of that code and work hard with Ford to maintain it.
NZ: Soy plays a huge role in alternative materials, why is that?
CM: Soy plays an important role in the car industry because of the excess crop we have. Its oil can be used in foams instead of petroleum. We’re also looking at it for gaskets, as well as recycled tires. All in all it’s cheaper and lighter than most other material.
Basically we look at the agricultural waste stream and crops that don’t compete with our food needs. We work hard to divert waste from landfills to reduce scarce resource and environmental impact.
For more on what Carrie had to say, head on over to Facebook.
We walked away impressed with the amount of work Ford does with its sustainability and humane approach. While carmakers are usually associated with smoky factory chains, churning out car after car, or outrageous PR stunts, it’s good to see an overall trend toward a more sustainable and green way to produce vehicles. The Blue Oval does a very good job at becoming green.